Come dance with the gypsies... Circulation: 111,611,307 Issue: 221 | 22nd day of Celebrating, Y7
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Christmas Warmth: Part Two


by neo_star_queen

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Breakfast the next morning was bread and jam. They'd depleted the entire inventory of cheese, which was not very large to start with. After breakfast, Emily brought all four Grundos along with her to the pound. Since it was morning, she managed to get to the front desk without being trampled.

     "Hi, I want to… umm… well, not really disown, these four Grundos," she told the Techo at the desk. "I found them yesterday, just outside here."

     "No room," squawked the Techo.

     "Pardon me?" Emily asked, confused.

     The pink Uni beside him leaned over. "I'm sorry Emily, we're completely full. It's so sad that there are so many owners abandoning their pets right before Christmas."

     "You're kidding, right?" said Emily. "Where am I supposed to take them, then?"

     "I'm afraid I don't know. If you have any relatives that might want them…"

     "I don't," said Emily mulishly.

     "You could put them back where you found them," cackled the Techo.

     Firing up, Emily shot back, "It's Christmas! I'm not leaving them on the streets! That's a terrible thing to say!"

     "I'm very sorry," the Uni said sincerely, "but we don't have room for them at all. A lot of pets usually get adopted on Christmas. Maybe you could drop them off then."

     "Yeah, okay," replied Emily, although the idea didn't help her very much. She tried to think of something else to say, but drew a blank. "Okay," she repeated, turning around.

     "Oh, Emily!" said the Uni quickly. "I'm having a Christmas party on the twenty-third. If you want, you can come-"

     "No thank you," declined Emily. "I think I'll be busy on that day." She nodded to the Grundos, and they all left.

     As they walked down the sidewalk, Glix wondered why Emily had not accepted the invitation to the party. She had said Christmas was a time for celebrating with friends, after all. Could it be that the Grundos were interrupting her plans? "I'm sorry," she spoke up, "we must be real burden if we're stopping you from going to parties…"

     Emily looked over her shoulder at the group. "It's not your fault," she assured them. "I don't like going to parties. They're so noisy and rambunctious. Besides, I probably wouldn't know many people there. I'm not very open. I'd just get in the way."

     They arrived at a frost-covered park. Emily sat down on the cold ledge of a stone fountain. "I guess you'll be staying with me over Christmas," she said tentatively. "So, I know Maz, but what are your names, the rest of you?"

     "My name is Glix."

     "Umm… you can call me Vule…"

     Farfin sat down on the ledge as well, his short legs not even close to reaching the floor. "I'm Farfin."

     "Okay. I'm Emily. Umm, I already told you that though." She sighed, the wind freezing her breath. It would be such a hassle to keep the Grundos at her house. But what other options were there? "Umm… are you hungry?" she asked.

     Not knowing what else to do, she took them to the bakery. They marveled at the tasty delights there, but only Maz did so outwardly, gasping and pointing and confusing the shopkeeper. At last they each chose a pastry. Vule took the longest, but when she realized that everyone else had picked, she hastily made her decision.

     Maz devoured his jam tart at once. "Yum!" he said. "This 'jam' stuff is delicious! How do you make it?"

     "Erm… I don't know," replied Emily apologetically. Farfin and Glix ate their pastries as well, but Vule was still staring at her slice of strawberry cake.

     "It's so pretty," she said softly. "All pink and cream with bits of chocolate. I don't want to eat it."

     "I'll eat it," said Mazzota eagerly.

     Vule stepped away from him and took a tiny bite of the cake. She blinked. "It's very good!" she said in surprise.

     Glix realized that Vule and Farfin had never eaten Neopian food before. Farfin was wearing the same cool look that he always had, but Vule was obviously enchanted by the cake. With a funny look on her face, Emily watched the faerie Grundo eat. It was oddly satisfying, paying only 80 neopoints to see so much bliss.

     She was broken out of her thoughts by a loud yelp from Maz. "WOW!" he cried. He tugged on Emily's skirt. "What are those?"

     Emily followed his gaze and saw a young Peophin with three new plushies in her arms. "Oh. They're just toys. They're called plushies."

     "Loxibur!" said Mazzota and Farfin in unison. Maz grinned happily and Farfin looked away.

     "Sorry?"

     "That's what we call them on Sloth's ship," explained Maz. "They're so cute, though! He said they were evil! I don't believe that."

     "They're toys," repeated Emily.

     "They're fantastic," said Maz. "I want one."

     Glix tapped his shoulder. "Stop asking for so much stuff, Mazzota. You got a jam tart and a place to stay."

     "It's okay," said Emily. Suddenly she wanted to see the other Grundos happy, just like Vule. "I can get one for you. They're not expensive."

     Glix gave Maz a 'nice-going' glare. He smiled merrily.

     ***

     They arrived home with a blue Shoyru plushie and a small, half-eaten box of cookies. Maz had the plushie cradled in his arms. Glix informed him that he looked like a little girl.

     "Hey, give me the loxibur," said Farfin unexpectedly. "I want to try something."

     "You'll ruin it!" cried Maz. The Shoyru was still in perfect condition.

     "You bet!" said Farfin. "I'm cutting it open. Come on. We'll be able to make another one if we know what's in it."

     As much as Maz loved the plushie, his curiosity won yet again. "Okay! Do it here, so I can see!"

     Farfin scowled, but sat down obligingly. He pulled a tool from his belt and cut through the poor plushie's stitching. Maz held his breath as he watched.

     Glix sat down on the couch next to Emily. "I noticed there are a lot of trees around Neopia Central," she noted. "Not normal ones, ones with lots of shiny and pretty objects on them. Why?"

     "They're Christmas trees," clarified Emily. "You put decorations on them, and gifts under them. It's a tradition. I've got a plastic one in my closet, but I don't usually use it."

     Maz spared a second to look up. "Let's set it up!"

     "It's all in pieces, though," said Emily. "You have to put them together."

     "Let's do it," said Maz keenly.

     "Don't cause trouble for her," Glix reminded him. "We don't even know how to put the trees together."

     "We can put fluff on it," said Maz, already carried away as he held up the broken plushie. Farfin merely shrugged.

     "I guess it would be okay," said Vule.

     Emily got a large box from the closet. Vule took out the instructions. "This looks easy," she said.

     "Hey! We are great with this stuff! We work for Sloth!" laughed Maz. And sure enough, they had the tree up in no time at all. Emily was quite amazed.

     "It doesn't look very fancy," pointed out Farfin. Maz strung the fluff over it, but it still looked quite plain. Thus, the Grundos spent the afternoon decorating it. Emily dug up some construction paper, crayons, glue, string and scissors out of her treasure trunk of a closet. She explained that she never threw anything out. At first she brought her book into the living room and tried to read it, but soon Maz stuck a box of crayons in her hand and she found herself creating decorations with the rest of them. The Grundos seemed happy. It really was quite satisfying. Maybe this was why some people went all out buying Christmas gifts?

     In the evening, they ate pasta with sauce. Emily had made sure to stock up on food. Glix helped to clear the dishes, in the hopes that she would be less of a burden. Maz played with the empty plushie.

     When Emily went back to the living room, she found Vule sitting on the couch, reading 'A Warm Christmas.' When the Grundo saw Emily, she closed the book quickly.

     "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to pry, I just saw this book sitting here and-"

     "That's fine," interrupted Emily. "You can read it."

     "Umm… okay." Vule stared down at the pages. "If you don't mind me asking… what does this word mean? Santa? I like to read very much, but I've never come across this word before."

     "It's a part of Christmas," said Emily. "Santa supposedly gives out gifts to good children on Christmas day."

     "My! That's quite a feat!" replied Vule. She continued reading. "Hmm," was all she said after that.

     When it got late, they all went to bed at the same time. As Maz, Vule and Glix lay down, Maz whispered, "So are we staying for another day?"

     Vule didn't answer, so Glix said, "Maybe. I guess. I'll tell you in the morning." They drifted off to sleep.

     ***

     The next day, Emily let the Grundos play in the Kadoatery while she herself nipped into the Pound. She was not surprised when they told her that it was still full. She took them to a certain lake that always froze over on the first day of winter, where Maz, fascinated by the ice-skaters, wanted to try the strange game too. They rented skates and all five of them stumbled about the ice for the first time in their lives. Glix was the best at it, and she herself seemed to be the most surprised at this. Vule and Farfin were the worst, and after a few failed attempts, Farfin sat out grumpily.

     Emily decided to try taking them out for lunch. It was a very casual restaurant, but they had great fun pretending they were famous and rich and stately. Maz showed Emily how to fold paper Neopets out of the napkins, which many of the Grundos on the ship did for fun.

     At night, as Maz fluffed his pillow, he asked, "Are we planning to stay for a little longer?"

     Glix rolled over. "We'll be back to the ship before the 25th," she said drowsily.

     ***

     The next day was almost the same, except that Emily skipped her visit to the Pound; instead of skating, they tried making Christmas cookies at a fair; in the afternoon Glix wanted to volunteer in the hospital, so they did. Emily had never volunteered before, and found it surprisingly gratifying, which was a feeling that she'd been having a lot over the past few days.

     On the next morning, the twenty-third, they were greeted by something very, very strange.

     "AHH! WE'RE UNDER ATTACK!" bellowed Maz from the window.

     Glix bolted out from under her blanket and ran to Farfin's closet, and then Emily's room, to spread the warning. Vule let out a high-pitched scream and rushed to Maz. Farfin and Emily both scrambled to the window in alarm.

     Maz pointed dramatically out the window. "LOOK!" he shouted.

     Glix immediately began to yell panicked orders, while Vule backed away from the window with a horrified look on her face and Farfin as well withdrew from the window in disgust. As Maz continued to wail continuously, Emily waved her arms through the air, shouting, "No! It's okay! Listen to me, it's okay!" She grabbed Maz by the wrist. "Calm down!" she said desperately. "Would you just listen to me?"

     At last he stopped shouting to gulp for air. Emily saw her chance and said, "It's okay! We are not under attack! This stuff is just snow! It's not harmful!"

     "Are you sure?" squeaked Vule.

     "Oh, you silly Grundos!" cried Emily. She dragged them all to the door, threw it open, and marched outside through white stuff that reached above her ankles. "Look!" she demanded. "Do you think I'm being attacked?"

     Maz was the first to react. Frowning, he stepped into the stuff as well. He sank in gently, the snow going halfway up his legs. "It's so cold!" he said in shock. And then, "But it's soft!"

     Glix and Vule trudged out as well, leaving Farfin on the doorstep. Glix picked up a handful. "Snow, is it? It's not so bad after all. I guess we overreacted."

     "My fault," said Maz sheepishly.

     Vule smiled. "It's really quite pretty, actually. All white and delicate."

     Maz threw some in the air and it landed on his head. He laughed. "I actually quite like it!"

     Emily laughed. "Better get used to it," she told them. "Neopia Central will be covered in it."

     "Farfin!" called Maz. "Come touch this stuff, it's great!" He threw a bunch of snow at Glix, who laughed and countered it.

     "Vile stuff," hissed Farfin. And he ran back into the house, shutting the door behind him.

     Emily was taken aback. "Oh my," she said, back to her quiet voice.

     "Leave him," sighed Glix, shaking her head. "He's not very friendly."

     "Have any of you tried talking to him?" asked Emily.

     Maz shrugged. "Not really. He doesn't like us. He never mingles with the rest of us Grundos."

     "I bet he's really lonely," said Emily, walking back to the doorstep and shaking snow off her feet. She went inside, leaving the other Grundos to stare and the snow and each other.

     Emily found Farfin in his little closet, hunched up on his tiny little cot. She squished herself in and sat down on a cardboard box. Then she didn't know what to say, because, not having a lot of friends to talk to, she was not used to this sort of thing. "Umm… well… how are you doing, Farfin?" she asked awkwardly. He didn't answer.

     She sighed. "Okay. I can see you don't like the others. That's okay."

     "I don't dislike them," retorted the Grundo.

     "Oh? So… you just… umm…"

     "I don't know them well enough to like them or dislike them," scowled Farfin. "Duh."

     Emily rubbed her hands together. That first line sounded familiar, and she thought she might have a lead here. "And you don't want to get to know them?" she asked.

     "No. Well… whatever. It doesn't matter. I don't care. I'm perfectly fine on my own."

     Emily nodded agreeably. "That's very true. People can get through life perfectly fine on their own."

     "Yes they can," said Farfin suspiciously.

     "Because really, what do you need other people for?" continued Emily. "We can do work, get food, and everyday when we wake up and come home, what's the point of having someone greet us? We'll get through life either way."

     "Absolutely," said Farfin, his eyes narrowed uncertainly.

     Emily sighed. "What do we live for then? Do we live so we can greet ourselves when we come home, because no one else is there to do it? Do we live to feed ourselves and put ourselves to sleep?"

     "Sure," said a bewildered Farfin.

     Emily shook her head. "We can't live for such insignificant things. They are what keep us alive, not what we live for. What we live for is to care for others, to make them happy and see the smiles on their faces. And then you'll have a smile on your face too."

     "It all seems rather pointless to me," said Farfin.

     "Life is pretty pointless," chuckled Emily. "We have to find meaning for it."

     Slowly, Farfin took all of this in. At last he said grudgingly, "You're good at this."

     Emily laughed. "I'm really bad at this," she differed. "I'm just sorting out my own problems here. That's all." She stood up. "Will you think about what I said?"

     "I can't promise anything," grumbled Farfin. "I'll try the snow. It looks weird though."

     Feeling rather triumphant and satisfied, Emily led Farfin outside where she was immediately hit with three snowballs. "Look!" shouted Maz. "Look what I made! I think I'll call them… they're balls of snow, so… I'll call them snowballs!"

     "Genius," said Emily. Farfin stepped outside, wincing as his leg sank into the snow. Then he shrugged.

     "I don't see what's so great about it."

     Maz threw a snowball at him and laughed.

To be continued...

 
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